back to article Successful launch readies Galileo satellites for test

The European Space Agency’s Galileo satellite positioning system is soon to enter its “service validation phase”, following the successful launch of the third and fourth satellites in the system. The two satellites were hoisted to their orbit at around 22,300 km by a Soyuz ST-B launcher operated by Arianspace. With four …


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  1. James 100


    Considering the cost involved and the fact there are already two systems in orbit with existing support, this seems like reinventing the wheel. Mobile phones and other devices support both the Russian GLONASS and American GPS, so why bother with a third?

    The official site doesn't seem to offer any reason - talk of "Guiding blinds in an unknown city, locate people lost at sea with a 3 meters accuracy", claims that selling receivers will generate EUR90b of revenue - which of these is not possible now, without launching more satellites?

    The one argument with any factual basis seems to be that GPS and GLONASS could theoretically be reduced in future warzones (though in fact the opposite happened in previous conflicts, with the US boosting the accuracy of unencrypted GPS so troops could use easily-available civilian receivers more effectively). None of that is relevant to civilian applications, though: if I do find myself driving through a warzone, whether my smartphone map can locate me is the least of my problems! (Not to mention that surely switching GPS off would go hand in hand with jamming any alternative signal anyway, otherwise shutting off GPS would be pointless.)

    The "commercial" DRM-encrypted signals of Galileo bug me, too - I cheered when GPS 'Selective Availability' was turned off, seeing our taxes poured into re-implementing it is hardly welcome.

    1. JaitcH
      Thumb Up

      Why? ... accuracy of unencrypted GPS so troops could use ... civilian receivers more effectively

      Bill Clinton signed the order relaxing of SA to boost the civilian applications / uses of GPS. The military prefers it's overly complex versions, custom made at great cost, and the US military uses a supplementary GPS navigation system.

      The encryption is for use in time of conflict, what's the point n assisting an enemy?

      There are now, or soon will be, Chinese, European, Russian and US systems. And freedom of choice.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?!

      I am watching you Rozalski, always watching...

      Got any other question? I do not. With GPS in every phone and nearly every phone capable of being trojaned it is only a matter of time until we see a case where a recording of someone's "trajectory" is used in court. I bet it is used already. By the way - I know that you can use cell towers for that. In EU that is fairly imprecise.

      Oh, and I do not want any more paperwork on this...

    3. Steve Todd

      Re: Why?!

      The standard, free to use signal is accurate to 1 metre, but there are four additional services that the system transmits.

      There's an encrypted commercial navigation signal accurate to the centimetre. That's good enough for precision approaches to airfields that lack glideslope equipment (which is expensive to install and maintain).

      There's an unencrypted safety of life service that includes error detection and warning.

      There's an encrypted public regulated service that is resistant to jamming and is guaranteed to remain active if the other services are disabled.

      There's also a Search & Rescue service that can pick up distress beacons and can send messages back to the beacon confirming reception and that rescuers are on the way.

      The big political bonus is that the system is outside of the control of the US military so the EU can make its own decision if and when to disable the network.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Why?!

      More systems equals more accuracy. GPS is more accurate over the US, and GLONASS has most of it's satellite coverage over northern latitudes, so adding Galileo (and Beidou, the upcoming Chinese system) means you're more likely to be able get a fix in a particular place.

      The encryption is presumably there to claw back some of your taxes that have been poured into the whole system, through licensing deals.

      1. SkippyBing

        GPS is more accurate over the US

        Really, I've never seen that mentioned in any of the literature, the satellite orbits aren't biased that way and it wouldn't be the most useful thing for the US military. Do you have a link to something detailing how that works?

        Incidentally the US GPS system is called Navstar.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wow, just wow.

    So, countless billions of dosh later, the powers that be will know whether i'm sat on the khazi or at my desk.

    Truly astounding.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: wow, just wow.

      Your khazi is open to the sky? There's no need to boast!

  3. Gary F

    Sub-metre accuracy

    By combining data from 2 or 3 different positioning systems it should be possible to compute a more accurate position. I'm trying to think of some useful civillian applications for this potential accuracy. But I can't help thinking there is a better use for 22 billion Euros to give us something new that we don't already have. It was a 5bn Euro project but current estimates put the cost at 22bn at the end of a 20 year project period. The number of satellites it would use has already been cut.

    1. JaitcH
      Thumb Up

      Re: Sub-metre accuracy

      You can get sub-metre accuracy using GPS, a reference receiver and a regular GPS receiver.

      These additional systems will allow accuracy-cross checking at less cost - no reference receivers.

      Garmin will have no excuse to show our main north-south VN highway as being 15 kilometres out to sea.

      And UK trains should be operate even more reliably and increase their on-time accuracy.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "And UK trains should be operate even more reliably and increase their on-time accuracy."

    Indeed both UK trains and some *buses* are tracked and reported through GPS.

    Both display *astonishing* levels of timeliness.

  5. PlacidCasual

    Follow the money.

    Galileo will provide a direct funding stream to the EU without any recourse to the individual states. Regulation will ensure the Galileo picks up lots of lucrative work in Europe which will set up the cost base to spread it further afield and then they'll harvest the income that the EU taxpayer has paid for. Built by eurocrats for eurocrats.

  6. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Why? Glonass and Navstar are military systems

    They can be switched off - and have been.

    When the first gulf war started in 1991, a friend of mine ferrying a Beechcraft Baron across the pacific suddenly found himself without his most accurate navigational tool. There's an awful lot of ocean out there and when you can only fly at 10,000 feet, islands are easy to miss.

    He had backups (dead reckoning, etc) but it's still not a good feeling when out of radio/loran range of everything.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The US can disable it only in certain areas

      Back in 1991 when your friend had the issue, it was all or nothing. Now they can disable it only over a war zone, so they could deny access to Iraq if the Gulf War was today, but still use the encrypted military bands themselves. I believe this was done during "shock and awe" in 2003.

      Of course any military making much use of GPS is going to use the multiple systems, so when there is the US, EU, Russian and Chinese systems available, and little chance of agreement from all four of them to disable their systems over a certain area, the ability of the US to disable theirs is probably becoming less and less useful...

  7. John Styles

    I call upon the readers' wisdom

    If I have a GPS watch / phone will it

    a) magically pick up Galileo as well as the U.S. satelites?

    b) not

    in which case how will I get it? Could a phone have a software upgrade or would it need a hardware one?

    When both systems are in use will things come with an option to choose?

    1. davemcwish

      Re: I call upon the readers' wisdom

      b) Not - Hardware.

      Your fruity (and Fandroid) devices typically cover GPS & GLONASS. If you have an LG Optimus 4X HD the chip supports quad-GNSS (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and Compass) .

      No I havent tried it either but would happily volunteer to be a reviewer.

  8. Kevin Turvey


    Why !!?? --To be independent from the Septics. I remember having an argument with a yank as to why we needed our own GNSS when the American system was perfecly good enough.

    Can you imagine the fuss the yanks would make if they had to rely on a European system which we could switch off at will and would have great impact on their warfighting ability, why would they not want their own independent system, why would'nt we?

    It's bad enough that we have bowed to pressure to alter the frequencies to please the yanks to allow the yanks to jam the signal without affecting their GPS signal IIRC.

    As to the cost, is it better to push the money out to industry and potentially create hundreds of jobs as well as potentially safeguarding hundreds of jobs in the aerospace industry or leave it in a bank/banks to potentially be frittered away on smaller projects which could amount to much less overall. It (money) all just swirls around and around in the system anyway, it is never "lost".

    1. SkippyBing

      Re: Why!!??

      Personally I feel it would be better for the money to have been left in my bank account to do with as I want rather than taken as tax to be frittered on a European vanity project. Incidentally money is 'lost' as you can't spend that £22 Billion on a GPS system and propping up Greece, it's one or the other.

      Incidentally if we bowed to pressure to move frequency so it's easier for the US to jam the European signal without affecting theirs, you do realise it works the other way as well don't you? I'd imagine this would allow a choice of which system to use in a war zone and then denying the enemy the others. In a multi-national operation you'd want everyone on your side to be using the same system anyway, if only for synchronisation of time sensitive devices.

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